Love them or hate them, now is the season for making New Year’s Resolutions. Now I am well aware that many people have lost interest in them over the years, whether put off by the commercialisation of fitness fads, the myriad of banale and superficial resolutions out there, or because they simply don’t/can’t/won’t keep them. This morning I asked a room full of eighty people if they had made any, and one had.
Nevertheless, I would like to come out of the closet and declare that I LOVE New Year’s Resolutions. I first started taking them seriously when I was a teenager and wrote a list of them during my Christmas holidays that numbered over 20. It gave me a great sense of peace to step out of the previous year with such a strong sense of direction, and during that year my life was genuinely enriched by the commitments I had made. It wasn’t so much things I wanted to do, though some were, but more a reflection of who I wanted to be, qualities I wanted to work on, and priorities I wanted to actively put in place. The list ranged from the ‘shallow’ (but helpful), such as losing weight, to the more religious, such as reading my Bible. I can’t remember all of them and I can’t say I kept all of them, but I felt that I had made choices about my life and was grateful for the opportunity to do so.
Even if our situations change, having something to work towards and hope for is good for us. I have heard it said so many times that as well as our basic needs of water, shelter etc, to flourish as people we also need acceptance, identity, security and purpose. Having simple goals gives us purpose. Having chosen those goals affirms our identity. Of course, we can’t base our whole sense of identity and purpose around a scribbled list of promises to ourselves, but making resolutions can help us as one part of a wider picture.
If you’re still with me, you may be wondering what kind of resolutions you might make. I think this is such a personal thing, but I do have some thoughts and ramblings about it even so…
Now, with my adult head on, I can see that from those first teenage resolutions onwards I have had a growing awareness of two key priorities in my life: my relationship with God, and my relationships with those around me and the wider world. Jesus said in Matt 22: 34-40 that the two most important of God’s commandments are:
- Love God
- Love Other People
Whatever your religion or beliefs, these are helpful. It’s up to you who or what your God is but I am sure that whoever or whatever it is, it will impact upon your identity. It may be you don’t believe in God, but there will be something(s) that are your biggest aims and influences. It’s worth thinking about it. And whether you believe in God or not, you’re bound to have relationships with others. In our ‘global community’, your life impacts people near and far, and their lives impact yours. So maybe these are a place to start.
But I’d suggest that even if these are your overarching aims, you need some more specific things to focus on: maybe a quality you would like to develop or a habit you want to drop. It could be asking people more questions when you talk to them, it might be smiling more, stopping yourself before you shout, or inviting more people to your house. It might be giving to a charity or raising awareness for one. It might be committing to only posting positive stuff on facebook or using status updates or messages to encourage your friends. It might start with yourself: telling yourself one positive thing about yourself everytime you think a negative thought or making the effort to cook new things for yourself instead of the same old quick and easy meals.
I received an email this week from a guy called Simon Guillebaud suggesting Shoedel’s ‘7Ups’ as resolutions:
Wake Up – Start your day with an awareness/acknowledgement of God and be thankful for it
Dress Up – Smile, be yourself, consider your body language
Shut Up – Think before you speak, listen to others, be positive
Stand Up – For what you believe in, for others, for what is right
Look Up – Simon puts it ‘Open your eyes to the Lord’. Even if you’re not a Christian, looking ‘up’ – asking questions about life, seeking wisdom, etc. could be incredibly enriching.
Reach Up – Pray, worship, talk to God, find out about him
Lift Up – Uplift others, support and encourage them
Whatever you decide to resolve, be hopeful about it. Apparently, it only takes 6 weeks to form a habit so who knows? By March you may have nailed it!
Finally, I want to suggest something else. Going into each year prayerfully has never failed me. As you make your resolutions, pray. When you’ve finished and decided on them, pray. Knowing God empowers and accompanies you as you move into the new year is so powerful. Colossians 1: 17 says that ‘In him all things hold together’ so on those days when we just can’t keep it all sorted, it doesn’t matter. He’s there, and He’s in control. We are not able to keep every resolution every day or become miraculously perfect over night. But, we are promised in Colossians 3: 22-23 that Jesus can ‘present us holy in his sight, without blemish and free from accusation – if you continue in your faith, established and firm, and do not move from the hope held out in the gospel.’ All we have to do is keep faith, and keep going.
If you have not read the footprints poem, it is a helpful illustration of the idea that through the ups and downs of life, God is with us. View it, here. (Apologies for the slightly cheesy music!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h4xUsJnUYnI